Fighter jet forces from incoming countries take over safeguarding NATO airspace 

Portuguese and Romanian detachments at Šiauliai and the Royal Air Force detachment at Ämari ended their four-month tours
Lithuanian Air Force

Fighter jet detachments from incoming countries have taken over safeguarding NATO airspace from Russian aggression in the Baltic region.  

On August 3, 2023, the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) confirmed its personnel have returned home to RAF Lossiemouth after leading NATO’s Baltic air policing mission in Estonia for four months. 

During the RAF’s time in the region, its pilots intercepted 50 Russian aircraft and flew for a combined total of more than 500 hours. 

The NATO’s Allied Air Command confirmed that the RAF’s Typhoon detachment will be replaced in Ämari, Estonia, by incoming Spanish Eurofighters. 

Portuguese and Romanian detachments at Šiauliai, Lithuania, have also ended their four-month tours and will hand the baton over to Italian Eurofighters.  

The Italian detachment has just completed an eight-month deployment for the NATO enhanced Air Policing mission in Romania and will now be taking part its ninth deployment to the Baltic region 

The RAF’s deployment to Estonia, named Op Azotize, began with UK pilots flying missions alongside the German Air Force, during which the first-ever joint air intercept between NATO allies took place.  

The British and German Typhoons shadowed a Russian air-to-air refuelling aircraft and transport aircraft. 

The Spanish Air Force first deployed fighter jets to the Baltic Sea region in 2006, in support of both NATO’s Baltic Air Policing and enhanced Air Policing – five times as lead nation and five times augmenting the mission – with their F-18s and the Eurofighter. 

NATO and the Allies have been conducting Baltic Air Policing since April 2004 as a regional arrangement for peacetime Air Policing, demonstrating the ability to share and pool existing capabilities. 

In 2014, enhanced Air Policing was introduced under NATO’s Assurance Measures to demonstrate the collective resolve of Allies, show NATO’s commitment to collective defence, and deter Russia from aggression or the threat of aggression against NATO Allies. 

Starting in February 2022, NATO has substantially increased the number of fighter jets on alert across Eastern Europe in response to Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine. 

Defence Minister Baroness Goldie DL said: “Our work with European partners and our NATO Allies continues to provide the backbone to European security, of which our pilots, aircrews and RAF personnel have all formed a central part. They should be proud of what they have achieved.” 

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